Wed. May 29th, 2024

“Campervanning New Zealand” has become a quintessential bucket list item for every person who dreams of travel. The freedom of living like a turtle with your home on your back while exploring perhaps the most beautiful country in the world is an experience no one could possibly forget.

Traveling New Zealand by Campervan is the ultimate adventure!

There is much to consider before setting off to travel to New Zealand by campervan, however. The locals (known as kiwis), hospitable as they are, have grown quite tired of gap-year students treating their home like a hotel with maid service. Excessive litter, overflowing toilets, and inundated parking lots have forced the country to respond to the unrelenting surge of “freedom campers”.

This travel guide will explain EVERYTHING you need to know and consider for your New Zealand campervan road trip. In addition to providing options and insights for trips of all lengths and varieties, we will also focus on vacationing respectfully.

If you are dreaming of 4 wheels on the ground and 1 in your hand as you cruise around Middle Earth, bookmark this guide and study it closely.


You will have to carefully consider comfort, budget, and mobility to choose the right vehicle for campervanning New Zealand.

New Zealand has a special designation called “self-contained”, which is awarded to campervans that can serve as a legitimate home for 3 days. The specific requirements your vehicle must meet continue to evolve, but it primarily comes down to water and waste storage.


The absolute most important decision you will make for campervanning New Zealand is what vehicle you will road trip in. Having something that is self-contained will open up a “heap” of options for parking overnight.


Pros: Most liberating option, budget-friendly, fairly comfortable.

Cons: More expensive up-front.

Recommended for: Most people.

Choosing a self-contained campervan to travel New Zealand will provide a far more comfortable and liberating experience.

This is easily the best option for campervanning New Zealand.

Having a campervan that is certified self-contained allows you to “freedom camp”, which means that you may legally park overnight on public land unless local restrictions have been implemented. Having this ability will save you a lot of money in camping fees, and will also allow you the most flexible itinerary. With that said, this is not a ticket to parking anywhere. You must still be proactive in finding places where you can park for the night.

Strong consideration should be given to something that has the self-contained sticker regardless of whether you are buying or renting your campervan. Most rental companies will sub-categorize these options for you. If you are considering buying a campervan for an extended trip, however, you may want to review the most recent guidelines for self-containment designation.


Pros: Cheapest option, fairly liberating.

Cons: Limited freedom camping options, small space for long trips.

Recommended for: Budget travelers.

Having a vehicle that provides transport and accommodation is what makes campervanning New Zealand the best option.

Whether you are renting or buying your campervan for New Zealand, you will discover the cheapest options are non-self-contained vehicles. When deciding whether to upgrade or not, your decision should weigh the additional up-front expense with the increased cost in having to pay for most campsites. You will not be allowed to camp overnight on public land if you do not have the self-contained sticker.

While not always the case, non-self-contained campervans tend to be physically smaller models of vehicle. New Zealand gets a LOT of rain and inclement weather; having space for laundry and to dry out should be another massive consideration for extended travel.

We will discuss this more in-depth in the next section on acquiring a campervan. In short, anyone planning on traveling for more than a month should definitely look for something self-contained. Short term travelers with a rigid itinerary have the option of saving some money on a non-self-contained vehicle and just planning more carefully.


Pros: Most comfortable option, allows self-contained freedom camping.

Cons: Most expensive and least accessible option.

Recommended for: Extended trips and/or comfort-minded travelers.

We did want to mention the option of traveling New Zealand by motorhome as well. The benefit is, of course, comfort. The downsides are going to be accessibility, expense, and lost time.

Any motorhome you get will be self-contained. However, this does not mean you can park anywhere! In fact, you may find it difficult to locate overnight parking for oversized vehicles.

Beyond that, motorhomes require frequent hookups to recharge power unless you have a pretty good van battery system, as well as dump waste, refill water, etc. Choosing to road trip NZ by RV will force you to seek proper campsites with hookups at least every few days.

We only recommend choosing a motorhome for your visit to New Zealand if you have specific, physical needs that a campervan cannot fulfill.


There are many options for campervanning New Zealand beyond simply renting a vehicle (though that may be the best option for many).

The factors you should consider are the length of your trip, your budget, the expected weather, and physical comfort.


Pros: Fastest, easiest option.

Cons: Most expensive option (usually).

Recommended for: Short visits (less than a month).

Renting a campervan to travel NZ is the fastest and easiest option.

Renting a campervan is the most popular and easiest option for most visitors. This allows you to pick up right at the airport, sign some paperwork, and hit the road. What’s more, these vans tend to be designed efficiently for this exact type of journey. Your insurance and maintenance is also taken care of, so there’s a lot less to worry about!

There are plenty of companies to choose from, but Jucy is the most popular, and usually the most budget-friendly. We traveled with them in both New Zealand and Australia and will always recommend them. Their prices are the most competitive and they offer a variety of sizes and options. They also always provided us with incredible customer service.


Pros: Potentially cheapest option, unlimited choices.

Cons: Risky, time-consuming.

Recommended for: Extended visits (1.5 – 3+ months).

This is an interesting option that many do not consider. If you are planning on campervanning New Zealand for much longer than a month, buying a campervan and selling it when you are done could save you a lot of money! This is a particularly popular option for those on a Working Holiday Visa in New Zealand.

Of course, this will be a more complicated option than renting as you will have to broker the deals and figure out insurance. You are also on your own for maintenance! Most backpackers have no intention of keeping nor caring for their campervan, so buy with caution!

There are many Facebook groups and other resources available for those looking to buy or sell a vehicle. Even if you take a small loss on the resale, it will likely be a lot cheaper than renting a campervan.

As this option is only recommended for long term-visitors, we strongly urge you to seek a certified self-contained campervan for your road trip. Additionally, you would be wise to insist the vehicle is inspected prior to purchase. Your trip will be seriously impaired if you end up with a lemon!

Self-contained vehicles will cost slightly more up-front, but will also have more resale value. You will also save a lot of money in camping fees. The main reason to go self-contained, though, is that a lot more options are available for overnight stays with that “certified” sticker.


Bottom line- having something self-contained during your time in New Zealand will greatly improve your experience!


Pros: Cheap & Easy; potential to make a lifelong friend(s).

Cons: Forced to compromise; potential for an unfavorable travel partner.

Recommended for: Backpackers.

Ridesharing is a great way to travel New Zealand by campervan for solo travelers.

This is another intriguing option that many do not consider or are unaware of. Because there are so many people just like you looking for that once-in-a-lifetime road trip campervanning New Zealand, there are a lot of opportunities for “ridesharing”.

Essentially, ridesharing means that you will split expenses and travel together. This is generally only an option for two solo travelers to pair up and split costs, though I have heard of groups or couples loading up a motorhome that sleeps 4+ and minimizing fuel costs.

Beyond the obvious benefit of saving money on food, petrol, and maintenance by dividing costs, there is also a lot more adventure in pursuing this option. You may well make a lifelong friend or friends, and will have someone to share the experience with.

It should be noted that in New Zealand, your camping fees are usually per person, not per vehicle, so you will not save money in groups for this expense.

The downside, of course, is that you do not know much about the person you are traveling with. Perhaps you do not resolve conflict together well, or maybe they are a slob! For this reason, we would only recommend agreeing to a rideshare for a week at first. If you find you love each others’ company, then you can continue, but you’ll want to have an out!


Be sure to prepare for your road trip prior to arrival to maximize your time in NZ.

There are a lot of things you can (and should) do before ever arriving in New Zealand. This section will explain what pre-considerations you should look into, while providing helpful guidance for each topic.


Unless you are an Australian citizen, you will need to apply for a visa or visa waiver prior to arriving in New Zealand. Not to worry; the process is cheap and easy, and is all done online. If you are Aussie, you can skip this section altogether.

Which visa or waiver you need to apply for will vary based on duration of stay and which country you are a citizen of. As the majority of our foreign readers are from the US, UK, and Canada, we will describe those options below. If you are not a citizen of one of these countries, visit the New Zealand government website for information specific to your home country.

Be sure to get your visa or waiver approved BEFORE planning your campervan adventure.

Visa Waiver (less than 90 day visit)

All you will need to do is apply for the NZeTA visa waiver here. It is all done online and approval can take as little as 10 minutes, or as long as 72 hours. The total cost is $44 – $47 NZD (about $30 USD), broken down below:

An NZeTA REQUEST costs NZD $9 if you use their free app, or NZD $12 if complete it online using their website.
You pay an International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy (IVL) at the same time as your NZeTA. This costs NZD $35.
You will also need to have an exit ticket in order to enter New Zealand on the NZeTA Visa Waiver.

Visitor Visa (up to 9 month visit)

The New Zealand visitor visa allows you up to 9 months to enjoy the country. Among other considerations, you must be able to prove that you can financially support yourself without working during this time. You must also have an exit ticket pre-booked for entry.

The application cost is only $35 NZD ($22.50 USD) online, and approval typically occurs within 36 days.

1-Year Work/Holiday Visa

If you are considering living and working in New Zealand for an extended period and are 30-years-old or younger, you can apply for a one-year work/holiday visa. Visit the New Zealand immigration website for specific information.


We found these maps and resources extremely helpful for guidance throughout our time campervanning in New Zealand.

Even with a cell phone plan, service can be very spotty in New Zealand. You will want to download the following apps and have offline access to these resources prior to arrival.

Offline Google Maps

Be sure to download Offline Google Maps for any regions you will be campervanning. It is free and easy, and will save you from using up your data, not to mention it will provide access to GPS even when you have lost service.

If you have never done this before, a quick Google search will walk you through the process.

Also not an app, but worth bookmarking and studying is our ultimate map to the New Zealand South Island. We have created this custom map to include every point of interest on the island and attached photos we have personally taken at each.

Be sure to bookmark and consult this map while planning so that you do not miss anything along the way!

Wikicamps New Zealand

This is the singular most necessary app you will need for campervanning New Zealand. Wikicamps is a crowd-sourced app that provides information on campsites (including costs, types, and restrictions), as well as general points of interest.

The cost is only $3 NZD ($2 USD) for a one-time purchase; money well spent! The only thing to be aware of is that because it is crowd-sourced, the information is often outdated. Be sure you check recent reviews and the time of posting while making plans.


This is a free alternative to Wikicamps. Because it is free, you may as well download it as every now and then an option was listed on Campermate that we had not seen on Wikicamps. Think of Campermate as the “Plan B” for finding campsites.

Gaspy – NZ Fuel Prices

Petrol will be your biggest road trip expense in New Zealand.

Road tripping New Zealand by campervan means you are going to be spending a lot of money on fuel. Be warned that it is very expensive in New Zealand, costing roughly the same for a liter as you would spend on a gallon in the US. Use the Gaspy app to scout where you will find the cheapest pumps and plan your fill-ups accordingly!

Road tripping New Zealand by campervan means you are going to be spending a lot of money on fuel. Be warned that it is very expensive in New Zealand, costing roughly the same for a liter as you would spend on a gallon in the US. Use the Gaspy app to scout where you will find the cheapest pumps and plan your fill-ups accordingly!



By Liga